day, rebellious free-thinkers like Erminio
Pinque define the city’s perception-shifting
creative culture, as I discovered on a fam
“Blowing minds is how you uncover
meaning and discover new ideas,” said
Pinque, who has done just that for the past
31 years as founder and director of BIG
NAZO. Launched here as street theater, his
now internationally acclaimed troupe of
“interactive mutant puppet-creatures” and
masked musicians transforms spaces and
places ranging from major global events to
backyard gatherings. That included putting
on his “wearable sculpture” during our
interview at NAZO LAB, his downtown
workshop and community space.
“Our job when entering a room is just to
be there, so that ‘what is’ changes,” Pinque
said. “Traditional event programs and
designs elements may not be memorable.
When we come in as misfits that don’t
match the theme or event purpose, people
first ask why. Then they find something
Pinque graduated from the preeminent
Rhode Island School of Design (RISD),
where he teaches creative collaboration
including Creature Creation mask-making.
RISD, which has a superb event-capable
museum on campus, also produced Barnaby Evans, the multimedia artist whose
WaterFire Providence ignited the city’s
renaissance 24 years ago.
“We all need the value of seeing things in
new ways,” Evans said about his mesmer-
izing fire sculpture installation in the city’s
three confluent rivers. “The unexpected
can be invaluable for problem-solving.”
Yet another RISD graduate is Yarrow
Thorne, a local artist behind the city’s
growing large-scale outdoor mural pro-
gram via his public art organization, The
Avenue Concept. Unveiled in September,
the mural Still Here is a standout example.
Baltimore-based muralist Gaia’s collaboration with the Tomaquag Museum pays tribute to Rhode Island’s indigenous heritage
by depicting artist and Tomaquag Museum
educator Lynsea Montanari holding a
photo of the museum’s founder, Princess
Adaptive reuse has reenergized many
heritage buildings, such as downtown’s
welcoming Hotel Providence. Originally
the 1882 Westminster Hotel, this AAA
Four Diamond theater district charmer
(within sight of the Providence Performing
Arts Center) with 80 guest rooms and 16
suites, offers the 250-capacity ballroom,
Terrace and Backstage Kitchen + Bar for
On the next block, the historic Til-den-Thurber building now houses Yoleni’s,
a smart new two-level Greek cafe, restaurant and artisanal food market with an
event and tasting area on its second floor.
“Food is an experience,” mused John
Phillippides, whose parents Alexander and
Alexandra own this first U.S. outpost of the
Greek-based enterprise. “It’s about creating
connections and memories.”
Future plans include bringing art and
culture into the building’s top floor.
Providence’s ever-evolving restaurant
scene includes two event-capable new-
comers. Steps from Yoleni’s, O’Boy offers
an Asian-inspired take on modern dining.
On nearby Dorrance Street, Sarto takes
over the former Garde de la Mer in the
multivenue Providence G building, with
a boldly reinterpreted Italian menu from
Executive Chef Robert Andreozzi.
Updating regional Italian classics with
knockouts like my creamy, peppery spa-
ghettoni alla carbonara, trattoria-style Mas-
simo on historic Federal Hill was Rhode
Island Monthly’s pick for best restaurant
in the state in 2018. Upstairs event space
accommodates groups of around 100.
Also evolving are neighborhood choices,
such as a “street food meets hip-hop”
concept Troop in Olneyville’s resurgent
Latest + Greatest
➜ Continuing to expand its U.S. portfolio
of boutique hotels in university-an-chored towns, Chicago-based Graduate
Hotels ( www.graduatehotels.com) is
transforming the Providence Biltmore
Hotel into the Graduate Providence
Featuring 294 rooms and 19,000
square feet of space, the 1922 landmark is slated for relaunch in spring
➜ Offering nearly 11,000 square feet of
meeting space, Providence Marriott
Downtown ( www.marriottprovidence.
com) is planning for the largest transformation in its 42-year history. With
a projected late 2018 start as of press
time, the estimated $15 million make-over was slated to begin with upgrading
mechanical equipment and reimagining
all 351 guest rooms, followed by the
main lobby and restaurant. Completion
date has yet to be announced.
➜ Targeting a mid-January 2019 opening,
a new $30 million, 120-room Homewood Suites by Hilton (https://home
woodsuites3.hilton.com) is downtown
Providence’s first extended-stay property.
➜ The new 176-room, all suite Residence
Inn Providence ( www.residenceinn.
marriott.com) is scheduled to open late
2019 across from the Rhode Island
➜ Business travelers now have the
convenience of a new 125-room Hyatt
Place ( www.hyatt.com) hotel at Green
International Airport, located next to the
airport’s intermodal train station.
➜ Cole’s Court Newport (http://cole
scourtnewport.com) is a new all-suite
resort-style lodging option for small
groups, with six units featuring one- or
two- bedroom accommodations and full
➜ Also suited for buyouts is The Firehouse
Inn ( www.firehouseinnri.com). Steps
from Newport’s harbor, shops and
restaurants, this update of an 1892
firehouse offers five contemporary rooms
and a studio suite. The property also
offers spa services.
➜ New group tour options include the
seasonal Newport Foodie Stroll (www.
newportfoodiesstroll.com) and Newport
Cocktail Tours, celebrating Newport’s
world rum capital days.
MARBLE HOUSE, NEWPORT